The mascara you should never wear with contact lenses

Rebecca’s contact concern: I read at Consumer that contact lens wearers should not use lash-extending mascaras because they contain microfibers that become trapped under the lens and scratch the cornea. What qualifies as a lash-extending mascara? Do the labels “lengthening” and “lash-extending” mean the same thing? Do they mean anything? If a mascara is labeled safe for contact lens wearers is it indeed safe?

The Left Brain’s cautionary contact connection:

Excellent question, Rebecca. I’m a big fan of Consumer Reports so I tracked down the article you referenced along with a few other resources. It turns out that there is a real reason for concern in this case.

Contact concern

After reading what Consumer Reports said I found another source, The Look You Like: Medical Answers to 400 Questions on Skin and Hair Care, that describes the basic problem: lash extenders consist of tiny synthetic fibers in a liquid base. When the liquid evaporates the fibers are left behind on the lashes, making them look longer. But as these fibers become loose they can stick get in your eye and become stuck to your contacts.

I found additional details in a 1985 New York Times article that quoted Dr. Oliver H. Dabezies Jr., a clinical professor of ophthalmology at Tulane Medical School. Dr. Dabezies specified that the synthetic fibers used in masacaras are actually nylon fibers. I thought it was interesting that he notes using cosmetics with soft contacts is particularly risky because those types of lenses “are like sponges that absorb everything, including mascara.” So soft lenses are prone to clouding due to absorbed bits of mascara while hard lenses can trap nylon fibers that can cause painful scratches which can lead to eye infections.

Safety testing

What about mascara that claims to be safe for contact-lens wearers? According to the article, “even these claims, however, do not indicate whether the products have been tested with all types of lenses. Maybelline’s mascaras, for example, though labeled ”safe with contact lenses,” were not tested with the new extended-wear lenses. Nor has Max Factor’s ”For Your Eyes Only” line.” I recognize that this article is a bit dated, but it does make me wonder if these companies have updated their testing.

Which brands contain nylon?

I did a quick search and found several brands that use Nylon-6 or Nylon-12.

Yves Saint Laurent MASCARA VOLUME EFFET FAUX CILS Luxurious Mascara mascara

The Body Shop mascara

Revlon Lash Fantasy Total Definition Primer & Mascara

You can do a quick check on your own brands by looking at the ingredient list for any chemicals that contain the term “nylon.”

The Beauty Brains bottom line

Based on what I’ve seen, if you wear contact lenses it might be wise to avoid using mascaras that contain nylon fibers. Product names like Longer Lash, Lush Lash, and Lash Lengthener, don’t really tell you very much, so to be safe you need to look at the ingredient list for any ingredient says “nylon.”


What do YOU think? Do you wear contacts? What kind of mascara do you use? Leave a lengthening comment for the rest of the Beauty Brains community.